Friday, 19 June 2015

'Wild Tales' review

To celebrate the release of Szifron's crazy anthology, I delve deep into my recollections upon seeing it for the first time. Hit the jump for more...

Wild Tales is just one of those films that intrigues from the outset. I mean, I hadn't heard a thing about it until the trailer screened at my local Picturehouse cinema. Let's just say that it's unusual.....  at first I thought it was an Audi advert. Maybe that was the intended atmosphere: middle class luxury slowly descended into more and more obscurity. Slowly but surely, the trailer crossed the line beyond which it couldn't be so (but still, part of me clung on to my original idea). It was intriguing, strange, and kinda funny. So I decided to see the film.

NOT an Audi advert...
This is an anthology effort. Wait, don't leave just yet... where other anthologies fail in being uneven (ABC's of Death) or feel unsatisfying (V/H/S) this triumphs as an incredible effort. For a start, Szifron avoids any gimmicks; there are no connecting segments and there is no denouement in terms of overall plot. The themes are all the same, and that is enough for this film to hold together. And the structure is fantastic.

The first segment, 'Pasternak',  is rather ingenious. It's the shortest of all the sections and packs the largest punch in terms of a shock 'turning point' into a small time space. So, in a way, this is a caffeine shot that invigorates the audience and prepares them for what is to come. It's hard to talk about it as it's only around five minutes long and any information could spoil it - let's just say that the tragedy in the Alps the day before 'Wild Tales's' release added an extra edge to the presentation.... a bit of a shame since the film was lambasted for being insensitive when it was hardly to blame.

The Rats...
The second, 'Las Ratas', is more of a psychological experience. All of the skits feature people pushed to the brink, but this short displays the full escalation of such a situation in a confined space rather well. The premise is set up at the exposition of the tale: a woman wishes to poison somebody (more complex than this, but hey) and we see thee outcome. We know the man will be poisoned eventually. It's all about the build up; the tension; the climax. A sense of dread and morbid comedy pervades the short in a way that is unique from the rest of the film.

After this, we are treated to "El mas fuerte". Physically, this is the funniest of the shorts. The choreography is stunning and the slapstick is unique to the segment. It's also the cringiest. The violence displayed here is of the melee kind (fire extinguishers smashed into faces, hung by seatbelts etc.). The basic premise is that a middle class guy in a rich car pisses off a redneck. Hilarity ensues. The last line of dialogue in this one is comedic genius...

The fourth tale is known as 'Bombita' and is perhaps my favorite of all the shorts. It is the one that appeals to us the most: parking fines annoy everybody. It is also the most frequently funny, and contains the most intelligent commentary. The story is well thought out and exquisitely planned: each new twist and turn brings shock and delight to the viewer and the resolution is pure genius modernism.

The penultimate section, 'La Propuesta' is perhaps the darkest section, and the most devoid of laughs. For it concerns the murder of a pregnant woman, and the greed of all those involved. Indeed, the laughs are present as usual (yep, that's how dark this film is) but it feels grittier and more moral than the rest. The ending also contains a yelp/gasp out loud shock moment which just makes this short that much more interesting.

The last and longest section "Hasta que la muerte nos separe" deals with a subject many fear: infidelity; Throughout a course of brutal twists, this story keeps on growing and growing, finally becoming a bizarre and morbid Holywood ending - a genius touch that has much to say about the current state of cinema.

Happy ending?
These shorts all maintain a morbid and dark fascination: a longing for schadenfreude that's ever present in the culture of today. Only in it's weakest moments does it look towards happiness and hope, yet even these are worth a good view. It's just that the film is so fun. Rarely do I sit through a film and just enjoy it from start to finish. I did for wild tales. The filming style is never less than fantastic, and the soundtrack is just magic. The film has much too say on the status of the middle class and the comforted panic that is present in their daily lives. It's what is in all of us: the inner rage that threatens to release itself. It rarely does; but what would happen if we just tipped over the edge? Just slightly? Once the balance of human nature has been disrupted, what would happen? Szifron want's to tell us what exactly, and he does with style and panache to boot.It comes right out of the heart of Argentina - a country which is undergoing an artistic revolution, and this is clear to see.

In conclusion, 'Wild Tales' is part Tarantino, part Almodovar, and part Sorrentino. It's also all awesome, and a movie that you just need to see to believe. Check it out...
'Wild Tales' gets 4 stars!

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